Friday, 29 January 2016

faux florals with Homesense UK

You all know me and my love of flowers, plants, growing and nature; I like things to be as seasonal as possible, filling the house with berries and greenery in the winter, and colourful freshly cut flowers from the garden in the summer. That said, that odd period after Christmas is tricky if you're fed up with foliage, but don't want to head to the florist (or supermarket!) - so when the folks at Homesense got in touch and challenged me to style up some of their faux flowers, I decided to give it a go.

It has to be said, fake flowers and greenery is something I've always avoided; we've got two faux plants from IKEA, but they're not all that convincing (especially when covered in dust!), and I've yet to find anything widely available that doesn't look plastic-ky and rubbish. At our wedding, we had silk flowers from a local mill - they were beautiful, and looked the business, but unfortunately they've sinced closed, and until now I've not found anything nearly as good.

I have to admit, I wasn't expecting anything half as realistic as I found at Homesense - I guess I'm a faux flower sceptic! As soon as we walked in, I was greeted with rows of containers filled with blooms and foliage; it's set up to look just like a florist, with flowers grouped together in style and colour, and several inspiring arrangements on display. Prices range from 99p to around £9.99 for individual stems, and whole arrangements cost a little more; I spent £30, and came away with enough to fill several jugs and bottles - in fact, there were quite a few that I couldn't fit in!

I went with some branches laded with blossom, seed heads, a few different stems of leaves, and a large blowsy hydrangea. Aside from the huge choice, I was really impressed with the details on the flowers and stems; the petals themselves were soft and fabric-like, the stems had all the lumps and bumps of the real thing, and there were even small faux buds on some of them. You can't really ask for much more in a fake flower!
Styling them was way easier than I was expecting as well - I thought I'd end up surrounded by loads of shards of plastic, flaking glue and visible wire, but there was none of that. I did need a really strong pair of pliers to trim the stems, but they're widely available and not all that expensive. I do love real flowers, and the fake variety will never replace them in my eyes - but I have to admit, it was ever so nice not to be dripping water or dropping petals everywhere all the time! I also love the environmental factor - I'm not sure how energy efficient the manufacturing process is, but the fact that these will literally last FOREVER is a winner for me, and there's also the point that you're not flower shopping 'out of season', which is a whole other issue. It's safe to say Homesense have definitely changed my opinion of faux flowers - give them a go!

This is a collaborative post.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

giveaway: win £300 to spend on pendant lighting at Houseology

If there's one home related product that I've always hankered after, it's pendant lighting. As renters, we're always stuck with whatever guff the landlord has put in; horrific fluorescent strip lights in the kitchen, dull bulbs in the bedrooms and naff chandeliers in the lounge - what I wouldn't give to have the money to rip them out and have an electrician pop up something a bit more modern and pleasant.

If any of you are fellow lighting-lovers, I might be about to make your day. I've teamed up with those lovely folks at Houseology to offer you the chance to win £300 to spend on pendant lighting of your choice (click here to have a rummage through the category) - and I've even made a little collage of all my favourites, just in case you need some inspiration....

1. &Tradition Copenhagen Pendant Light, £180 // 2. Garden Trading Battersea Light in Clay, £48 // 3. It's About RoMi Riga Hanging Lamp, £60.50 // 4. Design House Stockholm Work Lamp, £127 // 
5. Muuto Unfold Pendant, £119 // 6. Garden Trading Cheyne Wall Light in Chalk, £40 // 7. Lee Broom 8m Pendant Fitting, £87.50 // 8. Muuto E27 Socket Lamp in Light Green, £52 // 9. Garden Trading Pendant Fishing Light in Charcoal, £52 // 10. It's about Romi Cadiz Hanging 3 Lamp, £109 //

All you have to do to enter is head to the Rafflecopter widget at the bottom of the post, and complete as many tasks as you like - the more you tick off, the more chances you have! The giveaway will end at midnight on 2 nd February, and a winner will be chosen at random via the Rafflecopter website. Whoever wins will be notified via social media and email, and their details will be passed along to the lovely Houseologists, who will get their prize organised.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TERMS & CONDITIONS: You must be a UK resident to be eligible for this competition; This voucher code is valid on items within the Houseology Pendant Lights category only; Free UK delivery will apply for your purchase; Voucher code is valid for one single transaction only, even when the full available balance is not met. Any value not used within one transaction will be forfeit. This prize is non-transferable and cannot be exchanged for monetary value; No cash alternatives to the stated prize will be offered. Valid until 31st December 2016.


Friday, 22 January 2016

shop: global goods partners

When you've got a blog, every now and then you'll get contacted by someone with a shop, a product or an idea so exciting, that it takes your breath away. Long term readers will know that I'm a huge advocate for independent companies and businesses, artisan workers and any fair trade schemes that allow people in developing countries to earn a sustainable, living wage. Global Goods Partners, based in the US, does all these things and more, and I'm so pleased to be able to introduce them to you and spread the word.

Founded by Catherine Lieber Shimony and Joan Shifrin in 2005, Global Goods Partners has been working with women in some of the poorest communities around the world to alleviate poverty, promote social justice and provide families with a decent quality of life. The infographic below puts it into simple terms much more effectively than I could!

The website is absolutely jam packed full of information; aside from the shop itself, there are pages dedicated to the history of the company, staff profiles, the impact they have on individuals and communities, and my favourite part - the artisan profiles. There's also a section on their fundraising, advocacy and grant programs, which is great if you're looking to find a way to get more involved.

The thing I liked best was that on each item listing, there's information on who made it, where it came from and how your purchase will have a postive impact on someones life. I had a really, really thorough look through the shop, and managed to whittle my favourites down to two groups; accessories and kids stuff. The good news is that they also deliver to the UK, from as little as $15US - happy shopping!

1.Medium Green Market Basket // 2. Natural Dyed Fabric Journal // 3. Colour Block Alpaca Cowl // 4. Classic Raffia Market Tote // 5. Black and White Alpaca Shawl // 6. White Alpaca Beanie //

1. Cotton Whale Nursery Mobile // 2. Cotton Whale Hanger // 3. Felt Unicorn Hand Puppet //           4. Alpaca Knit Baby Accessories // 5. Chubby Cotton Koala // 6. Cotton Stuffed Whale //                   7. Handmade Stuffed Alpaca Bear //

This post is not sponsored, and I received no payment or goods in exchange for writing it. I always do my best to promote as many ethical, environmental and charitable companies and organisations as I can, and welcome contact from individuals or businesses in this area.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

lovely stuff #1

It has to be said, of all the months, January sucks the hardest. Christmas is over and done with, the weather is still crap, it feels like it's dark ALL THE TIME, and it's still ages until half term. I've not been doing an awful lot lately, but I've seen, read and found a few cool things, so I thought I'd do a link share-y type post.

I loved this post on Thought Catalog about how we perceive our successes in life; we're living in a hugely capitalist society, where success is considered to revolve around material posessions, and it's really easy to forget about the simple things. It's a good reminder to flick the v's at social expectations and focus on the little pleasures.

A good antidote to my loathing for the colder months was reading Hannah's Love Note to Winter over at Seeds and Stitches. Full of ways to make the long, dark season more tolerable (enjoyable, even!) it made even me contemplate heading outside into the cold to try and walk off my winter blues.

There's been some pretty good things on TV lately (I do like a period drama!), but our solid favourite is Walking the Himalayas with Levison Wood on Channel 4. We watched last year as he traced the Nile like he was nipping down to the corner shop, and this season has been just as enjoyable. It's the one hour a week where I can almost, almost satisfy my wanderlust; different cultures, breathtaking scenery and some pretty incredible survival moments. If you watch nothing else, check this out.

One of the biggest comforts when it's cold and rainy is a steaming mug of tea. I usually drink Clipper tea, both for it's super strength leaves and it's ethical prowess, but recently I've been enjoying spicy winter teas from the folks over at Jing tea. The chai has won Ali and I over completely - the festive season might be over, but there's still a bit of Christmas in my cup!

I'm a massive reader at any time of year, but curling up under a blanket with a hot water bottle and a good book is literally my favourite thing to do in the winter. At the moment, I'm making my way through All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and I've just downloaded This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. I also discovered that The Ecologist is available on the iPad, so I'm happily geeking out on the back catalogue of that.

Daisy has entered full Princess mode, something that I was pretty adament wouldn't be happening in our house; you all know how irate I get about trying to define kids through gender, so when I found out she was a girl, I pretty much banished pink from the house with a stubborn, 'screw you, society!'. Almost four years later, and I've discovered that removing the choice from her is equally as bad as trying to shoehorn her into society's 'norms' - she now wears a Tinkerbell dress and sings the songs from Frozen, while shoving her feet into monster slippers, wrestling her brother to the floor and farting on his head (true story. Sigh.) Lucy at Lulastic wrote an amazing post (as usual!) on why the Princess phase is nothing to fear - have a read over here.

I've written about it on Instagram, but I'm thoroughly in love with my Julia Smith Ceramics cream pourer - so much so that I bought my Mum the blackbird version for her birthday this month. She's just stocked her Etsy shop with some incredibly beautiful pieces (*flexes debit card*), so now if definitely a good time to have a look.

I think that's about it for now - more link love soon!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

my vintage home

Towards the end of last year, I went a bit mad and had three really good decluttering sessions; years of hoarding and rummaging in charity shops had left our house full of an excessive amount of china, pots, plates (seriously, SO many side plates....), trays, fabric and nick-nacks. There were shelves put up specifically with the task of holding stuff that was only ever touched when it got dusted, I had metres and metres of fabric, old duvet covers and curtains in gaudy retro patterns that I had bought to use 'one day', and my cupboards were stuffed full of vintage magazines, knitting patterns and photographs from the 1930's and 40's. I gave most of it away, sending a big package to the lovely Charly at Landgirl 1980 (her house is vintage heaven - go and have a look!), and the rest to local friends, and then the last few bits and pieces went to the charity shops. 

I still love vintage things, but these days I tend to be a bit more discerning with what I buy; anything enamel is a weakness, as are earthenware pots (as you can probably tell from the pictures!), and I'm a sucker for vintage books - I especially like anything to do with nature, gardening or crafts. My style has changed hugely since I started blogging; I prefer to have way less 'stuff' and I fell completely out of love with bold colours and patterns, finding myself drawn more and more to natural earthy tones, soft greys and crisp whites. I'd still describe our home as vintage in style, but with more of a modern rustic side that makes it more comfortable to live in - and much easier to clean!

I've never though of myself as being drawn to a particular era; I've always loved the history of the thirties and forties, but style wise I wouldn't have a clue - I usually just pick up things I like. The folks over at Co-Operative Insurance have devised the Room for Change tool that helps you to work out which decade your home fits in with best - I took it and ended up with the 1920's; simple furniture, lots of books and a good fireplace. Sounds about right to me! 

Many thanks to the Co-Operative Insurance for collaborating on this post.


Tuesday, 5 January 2016


We've not really celebrated epiphany before; usually, the decorations are down before new year and everything is back to normal by the time the clock strikes midnight on January 1st. This year, though, one of the things I want to do is make more of an effort to celebrate traditional holidays and seasonal events, so we're starting now!

Also known as twelfth night, epiphany is the day the Kings arrived with Jesus - historically, it was more important than Christmas Day, and during medieval and Tudor periods people would celebrate with feasts, wassailing and baking. Locals need not fear, we're not going to be roaming the streets tomorrow night crooning, but we are going to be eating plenty of epiphany cake and packing the decorations away (bye tree! *sniff*) Here are some other ideas for things you could do to celebrate first night if, like us, your singing voice isn't up to scratch:

  • Bake an epiphany cake - more like a brioche-type-bread, traditionally these are ring shaped to represent a crown, and are decorated with crystallised fruits. (I couldn't find any crystallised fruits, so I'm going with candied peel and glace cherries - I'm sure it's all much the same!) I'm going to be following Nigel Slater's recipe from the Guardian, but there are plenty floating about online.

  • Pack away your decorations - if you've not already done it, make an evening of it with a post-Christmas drink (I love a sherry, and I'm not ashamed to admit it!) and a slab of the epiphany cake. 

  • Fill the room with candles - Christmas might be over and done with, but the evenings are still cold and dark, so brighten things up by dotting beeswax candles around and basking in their golden glow.

  • Cook up a feast - if you're keen on all things culinary (we all know I'm not!), organise a small dinner party for close friends or family. Adele, who writes the Circus Queen blog, told me that she bakes 'Three Kings Pie' for her family, which is filled with mushrooms, potatoes and star anise (yum!), while pastries, cake and sweets are all very much acceptable additions to the dinner table.

Monday, 4 January 2016


So here we are on the other side - happy new year everyone!

I finished up last year an extremely stressed, overtired mess - and then spent the whole of Christmas and new year with bacterial tonsilitis! It wasn't all bad though - I still managed to eat my way through a pretty impressive amount of food, the kiddos were happy and we spent a significant amount of time in our pyjamas. What more can you ask for at Christmas?!

Last year around this time, I did a post talking about what I wanted to see and do in the months ahead, and this year I'm doing the same - most things revolve around craft and food, which I think is a pretty good start to any year!

Get Organised
Although I'm self-employed, my accounting system is something of a joke. I've never actually printed off an invoice in my life, and my tax return is usually done in a blind panic three days before the deadline. This year, I'm determined to get everything sorted - I've got ring binders, plastic wallets, and even a brand new, shiny 'paid' stamp for all those invoices that I'm going to print off and keep. I've also got everything Ben has ever done at school (almost three years!) stashed in a box, which needs to go into a scrapbook, photos to organise and print out, and old paperwork to shred.

I've already cleared out a good 50% of our unnecessary crap, but there's something about the new year which makes me want to sweep through the house again, bin bags in hand. Old, unloved toys, threadbare linen, unwanted clothes... it's all going!

Develop my Yarn Projects
I've been working hard developing crochet patterns for tutorials here on the blog, and also for various magazines - I'd love to be publishing a pattern once a week, and I'm also thinking about doing a few of those 'Crochet Along' projects for anyone who wants to join in.

Garden Effectively
Every January, I get overexcited and order a ridiculous amount of seeds - then I end up with a gazillion seedlings that I've got no space for, or things that just won't grow here. This year, I'm sticking to food that I know does well; runner beans, French beans, peas, tomatoes and salad, as well as several different types of flowers. Last year I planted some perennials; delphiniums, carnations, lavenders, and Veronica, and I'm hoping they'll pop up again in the spring - I'm going to add in lots of sweetpeas, some more carnations and lots of lavender in pots for the front of the house. We've also got two miniature rooted Christmas trees to try and keep alive until next year!

Practise Sewing
Last Hallowe'en, I cobbled together a pattern for a pumpkin outfit for Daisy, which I realised could be used for a simple cotton summer dress - I'm thinking some nice printed fabrics, lace trim and maybe some ricrac here and there. I've also got cushions to make for the kiddos room (yes, still!), and a dressing gown pattern from the lovely folks at Gather Kits to get stuck into. I've got some ace aztec fabric that I'm dying to use!

Read More
I'm currently REALLY enjoying All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and think everyone should add it to their reading list - I'm aiming to read a book a month; spending less time watching TV or aimlessly scrolling through the internet and more time eating up books.

I'm not going to say we're going to travel more - as much as I get itchy feet, they'll have to be satisifed by watching documentaries and reading books; we simply don't have the money to head off on expeditions. We don't have passports either, so that kind of limits us from the get go! I'm also not going to say I'm going to cook more - we get by on my (really!) limited repertoire of bolognese-chilli-lasagne-shepherds-pie-pasta-stews, so I'm not going to spend time and money stressing myself out pretending to be a foodie, when I'm not. Pass the potatoes!

What are your plans for 2016? Did you have a good Christmas and new year? I hope so!

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